Jane Russell, whose voluptuous good looks won the attention of millionaire Howard Hughes and launched her on a movie career, died Monday of respiratory failure at her home in Santa Maria, Calif. She was 89. Russell was in numerous production through her younger years and reached the pinnacle of her career with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), starring in the comedy with Marilyn Monroe.
During the 1970s, Russell was widely recognized as the spokesperson for Playtex bras, appearing in national TV commercials for the “Cross Your Heart” bra campaign.
Although best known for her figure, Russell showed a comic sensibility in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and again with Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955) and The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956). Nevertheless, most of her movie roles were designed around her towering physicality and frontal amplitude.
Although Russell made only a handful of films after the 1960s, she had remained active in her church, with charitable organizations and with a local singing group until her health began to decline just a couple weeks ago, said her daughter-in-law, Etta Waterfield.
“She always said I’m going to die in the saddle, I’m not going to sit at home and become an old woman,” Waterfield told The Associated Press. “And that’s exactly what she did, she died in the saddle.”
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